January 18 2010
Mark C O’Flaherty
Garzon, a 90-minute drive from the high-rise hedonism of Uruguay’s Punta del Este, used to be the quintessential cinematic ghost town – complete with abandoned railway station – before the celebrated Argentine chef Francis Mallmann started buying up property and opened his Garzon Restaurant and Hotel in the town square’s old general store in 2004. Mallmann’s potential folly is a five-bedroom high-style oasis – rustic but absolutely luxurious, with sumptuous beds and monastic black tadelakt-walled bathrooms. There’s a candlelit dining room and alfresco tables in a walled garden with a pool and plenty of dappled shade.
After a few days of the January social scene of nearby José Ignacio, my favourite thing to do is to retreat to Garzon for the weekend. You couldn’t want for more peace, quiet or luxury. You’ll feel like the only guest in a particularly wonderful house with an absent owner but fantastic staff, while the evenings bring in the well-heeled José Ignacio brigade for supper.
The rates at Garzon are all inclusive ($660 for a double room) and a couple of nights is enough to work your way through Mallmann’s menu, with lots of the grilled meats and fish he’s famed for. Mallmann’s style of cooking is muscular but with a light touch.
Garzon might be impossibly remote (the 20-minute drive from José Ignacio takes in a treacherous dirt road), but as you sip a fantastic Finca La Anita Sauvignon Blanc by the garden firepit at sunset, the long journey to this particularly chic version of the Wild West pales into insignificance.